Novak Djokovic's Australian Open first-round match against Dino Prizmic set a new record for the Serb's longest opening match at a Grand Slam tournament as the world No. 1 applauded the Croatian's "amazing performance" and underlined that the Croatian qualifier "made me run for my money tonight."
On Sunday, 10-time champion Djokovic launched his Australian Open title defense by taking on qualifier Prizmic. On paper, Djokovic was expected to have an easy job against the Croatian ranked at No. 178 in the world. But it was all but an easy match for Djokovic, who needed four hours and one minute of play before completing a 6-2 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-4 win over Prizmic.
Previously, the record for Djokovic's longest Grand Slam first-round match was three hours and 57 minutes. That match was played at the start of Djokovic's career in 2005, when the Serb beat Gael Monfils in the US Open first round.
Djokovic was made to work hard by Prizmic
The start of the match didn't indicate that Djokovic would have a tough day at the office as the Serb routinely won the first set with breaks in the first and seventh games.
Early in the second set, Djokovic lost his serve in the fourth game but managed to instantly get the break back in the following game. As no more breaks were seen in the remainder of the set - the set went into a tie-break - where Djokovic saved Prizmic's three consecutive set points but couldn't save the fourth as the Croatian leveled the match to one set apiece.
After losing the second set, Djokovic started the third set with a 2-0 lead but found himself down by a break three games later after getting broken in the third and fifth games. The fifth game was played 16 minutes and Prizmic managed to come out on top.
But Djokovic as great champion as he is, responded emphatically by winning the next eight games to take the third set and also open a 4-0 fourth-set lead. Just when it seemed there would be no additional drama, Prizmic managed to get one break back in the sixth game. Later, Prizmic saved Djokovic four match points in the ninth game. In the following game, Prizmic managed to save two more match points before Djokovic realized his seventh match point to put the curtain on the match.
For Djokovic, it is safe to say that it was a big test. In his next match, Djokovic plays the winner of the match between Alexei Popyrin and Marc Polmans.
Djokovic spoke very highly of Prizmic after the match
Moments after surviving the Prizmic challenge, Djokovic made sure the 18-year-old Croatian would get credit for the performance he delivered. When addressing Prizmic, Djokovic spoke extremely highly of the Croatian and complimented him in many ways.
“He deserves every applause. Every credit he got tonight. He’s an amazing player. So mature for his age. He handled himself incredibly well," Djokovic said of Prizmic.
"This is his moment honestly. It could’ve been his match as well. He was a break up in the third. He fought. He showed a great mentality. Resilience.
"He made me run for my money tonight. I have many many praises and compliments for him. I love the way he’s using every inch of the court. He’s comfortable to come in and defends incredibly well.
"Amazing performance for someone who’s 18 and never had experience playing on a big stage. Big kudos to him, his team, and family. I certainly wanna be in his corner. Hopefully, he’ll invite me because he’s gonna do big things in his career.”
Djokovic: I heard Prizmic loved to watch me as a kid
Later in his press conference, Djokovic revealed that he was told that Prizmic used to watch him as a kid.
“I hear that he liked to watch me when he was growing up," Djokovic said.
In his presser, Djokovic again spoke extremely highly of Prizmic's game and about the things in which the 18-year-old impressed him. Also, Djokovic was not only impressed by Prizmic's game, but also with his mentality.
"He came out there not with a desire to just play a nice set or enjoy the experience, but rather to win. Kudos to him. It was impressive," Djokovic noted.
In 2022, Prizmic won four Futures titles. Last year, Prizmic won his fifth Futures title and also lifted his first Challenger title in Banja Luka.
After making his Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open and making world No. 1 Djokovic work really hard in their match, there is no doubt that the Croatian will be looking to continue his rise in 2024 and try to enter the top-100 and establish himself on the main level.
It will be interesting to see how will Prizmic do in the upcoming period.